Sunday, November 13, 2011

Vox Lox: Top 10 Billy Joel Songs

Up against a deadline, some crazy shit can become a column. And why not? I have no editor, no filter and, sometimes, no shame. Yes, yes- the V stands for vexing, the O for outrageous, and the X for x-rated. In simpler terms, advertisers be damned when my pen finds this space! This week, however, calls for a family-friendly countdown. I'm going WDOK on your ass. See, mid-week, our very silent contributor Sean mentioned that 11/11 was the anniversary of a Billy Joel concert he attended with his wife and sister-in-law. That got me thinking about the artist we all hate to love, because Billy Joel conquered the world by being uncool. And if he's everybody's guilty pleasure, then we've all attained innocence by the sheer volume of Joel's undeniable popularity. I like him. You like him. Chuck Klosterman likes him. Christie Brinkley liked him. There's really nothing to feel guilty about anymore. Let's do this:

10. For the Longest Time
A Jew crooning barbershop. If it wasn't so ostentatiously ridiculous and velveeta, it probably wouldn't have worked.

9. Go to Extremes
Billy's comfortable in his own skin here, with his rock-hat on, free of the nauseating sentimentality that could suddenly transform him from superior songwriter to insufferable sucker.

8. Modern Woman
Helps that this song is featured in Ruthless People, one of the funniest films I've ever seen. Judge Reinhold was Kevin Bacon before Kevin Bacon.

7. An Innocent Man
If you're scrolling up and down this list looking for "We Didn't Start the Fire," please stop. That song blows. It's a rip-off of REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It" and Joel might as well have sung "We Didn't Jump the Shark." Which is exactly what he did by rhyming off a series of unrelated historical events.

6. Piano Man
And you'll read this damn blog while you shit out a log, and say "Sam, why are you writing here?"

5. And So it Goes
Perhaps Joel's most underrated achievement- a simple, smart, heartfelt lyric that he didn't ruin with horns and over-production.

4. Uptown Girl
Wedge this one somewhere between "Power of Love" by Huey Lewis and Starship's "We Built this City"- songs that were so influential to me at a young age that I will never downplay their significance no matter how utterly gay and awful they may sound three decades later.

3. A Matter of Trust
Check out the video, with then-wife Brinkley holding their young daughter, Alexa. At this point, as far as America is concerned, Alexa still had a 50/50 chance of hitting the genetic-lottery. Hey, I still think she's sort of hot. Sort of.

2. The Downeaster Alexa
Um, yeah, this gem is pretty high on the Billy Joel Unintentional Comedy Scale. I mean, come on...is there a more unlikely candidate to play the role of struggling fisherman?!? Did Billy really sing, with a straight face, I've got bills to pay and children who need clothes/ I know there's fish out there but where God only knows. Priceless.

1. Only the Good Die Young
I wrote in Vox Rox Redux that OTGDY is a "charmingly potent indictment of 20th century Catholicism," but over the years it has evolved into something much more personal. Now, I semi-fondly recall my ex-mother in law every time Billy belts the line: Aw, she never cared for me/ but did she ever say a prayer for me? I've finally made peace with my admission that I'm one of Joel's fun-loving sinners. And I'll see the Piano Man in hell, I guess.

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